On Animals and the Human Spirit
On Dragons

Fairy Tales, Then & Now

The Frog Prince by Marianne Stokes

I loved The Diane Rehm Show on public radio when I lived in the States, so it was a thrill to learn that the show would be devoting a segment to "the history and modern relevance of fairy tales" this week. Fairy tales are usually covered in the media in a shallow (and sometimes deeply ignorant) way, but I trusted Ms. Rehm to do much better than this -- particularly as the guests she'd lined up were Maria Tatar, Marina Warner, and Ellen Kushner. Perfect! And, indeed, it was a splendid discussion. If you missed it, go here to have a listen.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Diane Rehm's voice sounds strained because of spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological voice disorder that almost ended her career. Instead, she returned to the radio and used her show as a platform to raise public awareness of the condition. A remarkable woman.)

Snow White by Marianne Stokes

And on the subject of fairy tales:

I hope you haven't missed Marina Warner's excellent new book, Once Upon a Time: A Short History of the Fairy Tale, which just came out in October from Oxford University Press. "The more one knows fairy tales," she notes, "the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth." 

Edited to add: I also recommend Warner's article "How Fairy Tales Grew Up," published in The Guardian this week.

The editors of Mirror, Mirrored (Gwarlingo Press) are planning a limited edition volume of Grimms Fairy Tales illustrated by contemporary artists from a wide range of disciplines, with an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler. They are running a crowd-funding campaign for it now, with some lovely art as donation rewards.

And last: Go here to watch a video of Philip Pullman discussing the enduring power of stories in a clip from the BBC's Newsnight programme.

Marianne Stokes

The illustrations in this post are by Marianne Stokes (1855-1927) -- a painter who, though little known today, was considered one of the leading women artists of Victorian England.

Born in Austria, Marianne studied in Munich and Paris, lived in arts colonies in Brittany and Denmark, then settled in St. Ives, Cornwall with her British husband, landscape painter Adrian Stokes. In Cornwall, she was part of the lively Newlyn group of plein air artists (along with her close friend Elizabeth Stanhope Forbes), until falling under the spell of Pre-Raphaelitism from the 1890s onward. The Stokes then lived and worked in London, with frequent painting trips abroad -- spending half their year in rural Austria, Hungry, and the Tartra Mountain villages between Slovakia and Poland. If you'd like to know more, I recommend Utmost Fidelity: The Painting Lives of Marianne and Adrian Stokes by Magdalen Evans.

Melisande by Marianne Stokes

Women's Worth by Marianne Stokes

lllustrations above: "The Frog Prince," "Snow White,"  an untitled magazine cover illustration from 1907, and "Melisande." The tapestry design is "Women's Worth" (based on a Schiller poem), created for Morris & Co. in 1912.

Comments

Thanks for sharing this artist. She is new to me and I am an admirer of the PreRaphaelites as well. The beautiful modern styling of her subjects would make Marianne a fine fashion stylist today. I came to your Myth & Moor when searching for fairies/fantasy costuming through the Frouds. Your content is so inspiring and much cherished sustenance for my daily journey. all the best to you Terry

Thank you so much for posting this! I would have missed this Diane Rehm show, and now I won't. I have loved fairy tales for ages, and have the Maria Tatar's collection of Grimm and The Beast and the Blonde by Marina Warner and every color, I think, of Andrew Lang. Plus I know Ellen Kushner from Sound and Spirit. I can't wait to listen! Plus I'll have to look for the new Marina Warner book. What riches!

Mirror Mirrored

One shot shattered,
cracked, crackled, corrupted
the magic mirror.
The queen's face wore, bore
a hundred different expressions,
her lips sliced, diced,
like meat under a knife,
eyebrows fluttering, floating
into a pile of shards.

Though shaking in the reflection,
the girl's hand still holds
the Luger, its spittle spotting
the few mirrored pieces left.

Fairy tale monsters are easier
targets these days,
girls hardier, harder
to bully.

©2014 Jane Yolen all right reserved

Thanks you for sharing all of this wonderful information, as well as Marianne Stokes beautiful illustrations. Fairy tales were my favorite books growing up, and helped form who I am today as an artist, and I love Diane Rehm, so will definitely give this a listen. Can't wait to get Once Upon a Time as well as Mirror, Mirrored. Great post!

Jane, beautiful poem! Clever take on the traditional; I love the luger!

As you can see, I couldn't resist a mirror either.

THE FACE IN THE FAIRY TALE MIRROR

Between right and left hemisphere
lies a chasm,
In the crenelations of the brain
is a labyrinth,
beyond synapse and syntax
is a story
All peopled and beasted,
hag-ridden and ghosted,
foul-formed and fair,
where a mirror,
(magic of course)
reflects a strange face
we know best of all.

Jane, beautiful poem! Clever take on the traditional; I love the luger!

As you can see, I couldn't resist a mirror either.

THE FACE IN THE FAIRY TALE MIRROR

Between right and left hemisphere
lies a chasm,
In the crenelations of the brain
is a labyrinth,
beyond synapse and syntax
is a story
All peopled and beasted,
hag-ridden and ghosted,
foul-formed and fair,
where a mirror,
(magic of course)
reflects a strange face
we know best of all.

Sorry, don't know how I managed to post it twice! Bet I couldn't do it again if I tried.

I second that comment about the Diane Rehm show. I began my day with the sound of these women telling stories about stories while the rain drummed on the Quonset roof. Terri you funnel such food!

Oh we (royal we) do know it best of all, sometimes the good queen, sometimes the bad.

Jane

Hi Terri and everyone,

This is fascinating and the role of fairytales and why they still resonate is brilliantly defined in that interview on the Diane Rehm show with Ellen Kushner an Maria Warner. Along with the gorgeous painting ( Melisande) by Marianne Stokes, the views expressed by that literary panel on NPR radio and my own recollections, this poem evolved. When confronting that first disillusionment , as young females, regarding the unreality of a myth or idealistic belief, we are very vulnerable, overshadowed by fear and a hesitancy to trust. Yet, within that solitude, there is also reflection on the "ifs and whys" of the matter. And despite the down fall of that romanticism, there is also resilience, a heart that longs to rebound and still take risk, a rebelliousness that gambles on a new dream or personal goal.

Revisiting The First Fall From Fairytales.

It's the trees with their roots
gritted in mud
holding an ancient grip
on what happens (again and again)

that I find,
along with my former self.

She is sitting on stone, a foot stool
to the massive oak
brocaded in moss. A stream
runs over her feet
washing off the weariness
of a journey

a young girl has taken.
Something I have forgotten
as a woman spun
in her own web of schedules
and skill, acquired insight
and savvy.

Here in the hush
of the deer's house
where things shift at dawn and dusk,
the maiden comes
with all of her "whys"
plaited in hair that has been coiled.

A spiraled shell afraid
of the unraveling, yet wanting
reason to comb through questions

on love and rescue, deed and reward.
All promises made
by myth or moonlight

that did not occur as foretold;
and what follows next. I have forgotten
the down cast head, the drooping hand
but most of all --

the sensitive muscle
that still pumps enough blood
to keep her sunrise sanguine. Her spirit
shafted between the odds
like tinder light baiting
a dream to happen.
______________________________________________
This is just a beautiful blog entry, thank you for sharing the
links, the ideas and illustrations. They are all breathtaking.

Best
Wendy

Hi Jane

Just a fantastic poem with a fierce intensity that allows that shot to be heard, that mirror to be shattered. The wording is paced with perfect alliteration and cadence to give this poem its edge. Love those 'eyebrows fluttering, floating into a pile of shards" The haughtiness and expressive power of those intimidating features are rendered meaningless, left to sink into the ruins of shock.

Love this!
Wendy

Hi Stuart

All peopled and beasted,
hag-ridden and ghosted,
foul-formed and fair,
where a mirror,
(magic of course)
reflects a strange face
we know best of all.

So well stated ; and indeed, we recognize that look, that face. Something familiar that is rooted deep within.

Thanks for sharing this fine poem!
Best
Wendy

Jane, your fairy tales poems always make my heart sing -- as you, too, like the wise trio on the radio today, are one of the Fairy Godmothers of the modern fairy tale tradition. Superb.

I love your poetry, Wendy. And this poem in particular, especially this:

Here in the hush
of the deer's house
where things shift at dawn and dusk,
the maiden comes
with all of her "whys"

Stuart, a wonderful response! I'm thinking it might be time for another Poetry Challenge once the winter holidays are past....

That's a great idea! It's your Poetry Challenges that got me writing poems again after decades of silence

Marina Warner has a number of videos on youtube as well.

Hi Terri

Thanks so much for reading this! I appreciate your lovely comments and am glad you enjoyed the poem!! Your blog never fails to intrigue and bring both enlightening and magical moments into my space -- which often , in return, sparks the muse!

Again, thank you!
Take care
Wendy

Terri - and Tilly ,

Thankyou for the beauty of your site . For insightful awareness of the world we inhabit. And the magical world beyond the confines of geography and integral to our imagination . For Tilly a hug . And to your creative self , thank you again , Annette

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